Lachlan Ilias in brutal new fallout after South Sydney's woeful start to NRL season

Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou has swung the axe after back-to-back losses.

South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has axed halfback Lachlan Ilias amid the Rabbitohs' 0-2 start to the NRL season. The Rabbitohs have slumped to back-to-back losses to kick off 2024, going down 36-24 to Manly in Las Vegas, before a 28-18 loss to the Broncos in Brisbane.

Demetriou was scathing in his assessment of his players after the Broncos loss, and Ilias has taken the fall. Dean Hawkins has been confirmed to start at No.7 after he was spotted training at halfback on Monday ahead of Souths' grudge match with arch-rivals the Roosters on Friday night.

Lachlan Ilias.
Lachlan Ilias has failed to fire for the past two seasons. Image: Getty

Ilias has struggled in both games so far this season, failing to spark the Rabbitohs' attack. Cody Walker has also been underwhelming at five-eighth, leading to calls for Jack Wighton to play in the halves when he returns from suspension this weekend.

But captain Cameron Murray has moved to insist that Iilias hasn't been made a scapegoat. "The responsibility for our results haven't fallen on his shoulders at all. It shouldn't be put that way because it's not his fault," Murray said.

"The unfortunate part of this game is you can only pick 17 players and it's proof that nobody's really safe. If you're not playing your best footy, you're not going to be in that side. I'm not saying that Lachie's not playing his best footy, I'm saying that Deano has earned that opportunity."

Wighton said after training on Monday: "Deano's put his best foot forward and he had a cracking year last year in reserve grade. Lachie's going to bounce back. He's a true professional, he's an unbelievable player in my eyes."

Speaking after their loss to the Broncos, Demetriou said: "We're just shooting ourselves in the foot. Whether it’s not feeding the scrum properly, or first tackle errors, kicking it into our own player, penalties for blocking - it was a horror show of little things that kept putting pressure on ourselves... We're not going to beat anyone with 56 per cent completions - we’ve got to take ownership of that."

Lachlan Ilias, Latrell Mitchell, Damien Cook and Cody Walker.
Lachlan Ilias, Latrell Mitchell, Damien Cook and Cody Walker have all failed to fire in recent times. (Getty Images)

Could Jack Wighton play in the halves when he returns?

But Demetriou warned that Wighton wouldn't be a saviour once he returns. "It is going to be his first game of the year and we are excited to have him make his debut for the club," the coach said. "He gives us experience on the edges and some physicality as well so he will be a big 'in' for us.

"But we have to tidy up the dumb things we did (against the Broncos), get rid of the dumb stuff ... otherwise Jack will be doing what the rest of them were tonight and that's tackling."


Wighton is expected to line up in the centres when he makes his club debut, but the dumping of Ilias could mean the plans have changed. It marks the first time the 23-year-old Ilias has been dropped in a 53-game career, however he was hooked early during a loss to St George Illawarra in 2022.

Cody Walker
Cody Walker has also been underwhelming for the Rabbitohs. (Getty Images)

Adam Reynolds has made mockery of Lachlan Ilias decision

Ilias' emergence before the 2022 season led the Rabbitohs to part ways with champion halfback Adam Reynolds. The Rabbitohs only offered Reynolds a one-year contract extension, which he saw as a slap in the face and signed with the Broncos instead.

The decision has come back to haunt the Rabbitohs, with Reynolds leading the Broncos to the grand final last year and the Bunnies missing the finals altogether. Ilias had a particularly tough night in Thursday's loss to Reynolds and Brisbane, kicking the ball into teammate Tallis Duncan on one occasion and losing a scrum feed - a rarity in the modern game.

Dean Hawkins, pictured here in action for the Rabbitohs in 2022.
Dean Hawkins in action for the Rabbitohs during a game in 2022. (Getty Images)

Hawkins is the reigning NSW Cup player of the year. Since making his first-grade debut in 2021 he has played six NRL games when injuries have struck down the club's first-choice halves options.

The brutal call on Ilias comes amid dramas surrounding Latrell Mitchell. The fullback has been heavily criticised in recent weeks - most recently for an expletive-laden interview he conducted with Triple M radio after the loss to Brisbane.

with AAP